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Chelsea pensioners say “cheese” to herald the start of Christmas cheer


The nations favourite veterans today began their Christmas celebrations with a tradition that dates back more than three hundred years.

The Ceremony of Christmas Cheeses began in 1692 when the Royal Hospital, Chelsea asked a local cheesemonger to provide the pensioners with cheese as a Christmas treat.

Every year since British cheesemakers from across the country have honoured the Chelsea Pensioners.

The Dairy Council has supported the ceremony for over 50 years.  Dr Judith Bryans, Director of The Dairy Council, said: Cheesemakers all across the UK have a great tradition of paying tribute to the courage and contribution made by our war veterans.  Every year the Chelsea Pensioners are delighted to tuck into the best of British cheeses which have been eaten by soldiers for hundreds of years.

This year the cheesemakers have battled through the big freeze to produce some of the finest quality cheeses from around the UK for the pensioners.

Cheese has been a favourite among British soldiers serving on the front line as it was handed out in their rations since the First World War.

A giant Montgomery Cheddar was ceremonially cut by pensioner and former prisoner of war Patrick Brady, aged 92.

He enlisted in the Kings Own Scottish Borders in 1934. During the 2nd World War he served in India and in 1944 fought with his battalion at the Battle of Arnhem and was captured by the Germans. After being liberated at the end of the war he remained in the Army and served in exotic places such as Egypt and Kenya. He eventually retired from the Army in 1957.

He said: This is a great day for us all at the Royal Hospital. We have a nice bit of British cheese, washed down with beer and a good sing-song. The last thing we are worrying about is the weather.

Among the pensioners taking part in the ceremony was Marjorie Cole, (65) one of just three women pensioners at the Royal Chelsea Hospital.

Marjorie said: We are right into the Christmas spirit. There are only three women pensioners at the hospital and were really pleased to be a part of this much loved tradition.

Marjorie joined the Army (Womens Royal Army Corps) in 1961 and served in Singapore where she worked as a Chef in the Sergeants Mess.   She then had postings which took her to the School of Education at Beaconsfield, back to Singapore, York, Northern Ireland and Guildford.   She left the Army in 1977 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

About the Dairy Council

The Dairy Council is a non-profit making organisation that provides evidence-based nutrition information on the role of dairy foods in a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle.

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